A mass burial marking the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre was marred on Saturday when a crowd of mourners chased Serbia’s Prime Minister from the cemetery, underscoring the depth of anger over Belgrade’s denial of the crime as genocide.
Bodyguards whisked Aleksandar Vucic, a hardline nationalist during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, through a jostling crowd which shouted and booed. Some, throwing stones and bottles, surged up a hill behind his delegation as it ran for cover and left the site.
Serbia condemned the incident as an ‘assassination attempt’ and called an emergency cabinet meeting.
Tens of thousands had gathered to commemorate the worst atrocity on European soil since World War II, in which some 8,000 Muslim men and boys were massacred after the designated UN safe haven of Srebrenica fell to Bosnian Serb forces in the closing months of the 1992-95 war. Serbia had at the time backed the Bosnian Serbs with men and money.
More than 1,000 victims have yet to be found. The remains of 136, their coffins draped in green cloth, were interred on Saturday.
Vucic’s attendance was intended to be symbolic of how far the region has come since the bloody collapse of Yugoslavia, but it came just days after his government enlisted ally Russia to veto a British-drafted resolution at the United Nations that would have condemned the denial of Srebrenica as genocide, as a UN court has ruled it was.
Many Serbs dispute the term, the death toll and the official account of what went on, reflecting conflicting narratives about the Yugoslav wars that still feed political divisions and have stifled progress in Bosnia toward integration with western Europe.
Only last month, Milorad Dodik, president of Bosnia’s autonomous Serb Republic, called the massacre ‘the greatest deception of the 20th century’.